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Andrea Austria / Media Matters

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Fox personalities now claim that January 6 prosecutions are political. At the time, many condemned the attack: “Deplorable, reprehensible, outright criminal”

Laura Ingraham on January 7, 2021: “Many who stormed the Capitol will likely face jail time. Good. Anyone who broke the law should.” She now claims that prosecutions were “targeted” and “unfair.”

On January 6 and in the immediate aftermath, Fox News took a strong stance condemning the insurrection, despite refusing to describe it as such. Hosts, contributors, and frequent guests alike denounced the insurrectionists for storming the Capitol building, drawing comparisons to the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests and insisting that conservatives stood for law and order and were above such criminal behavior. Some Fox personalities even went so far as to blame Trump directly for inciting his followers to attack the Capitol.

Now, three years later, Fox personalities downplay January 6 insurrectionists as peaceful and unarmed. (That rioters who sacked the Capitol building were all unarmed is a long-debunked claim.)

Fox News’ about-face on January 6 reflects the network’s return to its role as Trump’s top sycophant, supporting whatever the former president wants, even at the cost of democracy. Trump has pledged that pardoning January 6 “hostages” would be a priority for the first day of his second term, or, as he has also described it, his single day of dictatorship.

Below are numerous examples of Fox hosts, contributors, and regular guests denouncing January 6 as it occurred and in the days that followed, and then a series of Fox personalities defending the insurrectionists in the present:

  • On and immediately after January 6, Fox News condemned the insurrection, claiming that conservatives were for law and order and criminals should be charged

    • Chief political anchor Bret Baier remarked, “This is an extraordinary image, it’s an extraordinary day, but you can't take away and subtract what the president said on the mall that leads to this moment. The two are connected.” [Fox News, The Daily Briefing with Dana Perino, 1/6/21]

    • Fox Business anchor Liz Claman said Trump “did not himself walk down Pennsylvania Avenue … but by planting that seed, they immediately began marching and then they, of course, have now taken over.” [Fox Business, The Claman Countdown, 1/6/21]

    • Later on The Claman Countdown, Fox contributor Robert Wolf stated, “I blame the president.” He added: “He said the other day that this rally was going to be wild. He turned a blind eye when people went into a Michigan statehouse with Gov. Whitmer with rifles. And this is not a peaceful protest.” [Fox Business, The Claman Countdown, 1/6/21]

    • Anchor Martha MacCallum said that the “group of people who breached these walls are — that’s a crime.” She added: “They’ve committed a crime and they should be prosecuted for it. Eric Trump was tweeting that. You know, other supporters of the president are tweeting that.” [Fox News, Your World with Neil Cavuto, 1/6/21]

    • MacCallum: “The people who broke into this building are extremists, and they have perpetrated violence against this building.” She added: “And, just as we have talked about throughout the course of this year, that’s a line that cannot be crossed.” [Fox News, The Five, 1/6/21]

    • While commenting on the insurrection, Fox host Dana Perino said, “There’s not a legal definition yet, but domestic terrorism is a real crime.” [Fox News, The Five, 1/6/21]

    • On his radio show, Fox host Mark Levin said of the protesters, “What they did was criminal.” He said: “I want to know who these people are. I want to know if they’re going to be charged. Because they should be. They broke the law. What they did was criminal. No, it wasn't a constitutional crisis. No, they didn’t stop us from counting electors. But what they did was criminal, lawless, idiotic, moronic. And we cannot have groups — I don’t care who they are, I don’t care what their cause is — taking over our governmental buildings. Period, stop, that's it. That’s it. And I want these people punished. I want them identified and I want them punished. I want to know who they are.” [Westwood One, The Mark Levin Show, 1/6/21]

    • Levin condemned the January 6 insurrectionists: “I don't care what signs you're holding, you do a grave disservice to the country and you do a grave disservice to us.” [Westwood One, The Mark Levin Show, 1/6/21]

    • On Tucker Carlson Tonight, conservative radio host Buck Sexton said, “It's also important, however, for us now to make sure we see that those who broke the law, those who crossed that line, are held to account.” He added: “It's on us to make it very clear why we have principles that we don't violate even in these extreme times.” Host Tucker Carlson agreed, saying, “That’s for sure. The idea that people would smash windows in the Capitol Building, are you kidding? We spent our entire life on this show going after the people in charge and they absolutely deserve it. But no, you’re not allowed to break windows or encourage people to break windows.” [Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight, 1/6/21]

    • Host Sean Hannity said, “Those who truly support President Trump, those that believe they are part of the conservative movement in this country, you do not — we do not support those that commit acts of violence.” He continued, “They — people — we don't believe should be vandalizing our nation's capitol, attacking the brave men and women that keep us safe in law enforcement. They don't storm the Capitol, they don’t place pipe bombs at the RNC or anywhere else. And all of today's perpetrators must be arrested and prosecuted to the full extent of the law. But, every good and decent American, we know, will and must condemn what happened at the Capitol. [Fox News, Hannity, 1/6/21]

    • Then-Fox contributor Dan Bongino: “We can't ever, ever normalize political violence, ever.” He continued: “You know, there’s a famous quote by Ellis that civilization is a thin crust on a volcano. But what is that thin crust made of, right? Well, it’s made of law, order, the Constitution — rules that apply to everyone. But Sean, the rules don't apply to everyone. Whereas people on this network and me today who’ve said, ‘Listen, what happened today was not normal and should not be accepted and should be called out.’ And we have. Period, full stop.” [Fox News, Hannity, 1/6/21]

    • Fox host Laura Ingraham: “But those who breached the Capitol Hill security today, whoever they were, they were criminals.” [Fox News, The Ingraham Angle, 1/6/21]

    • Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy said: “The attack on law enforcement yesterday was jaw-dropping.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 1/7/21]

    • Fox contributor Tammy Bruce declared, “What the American people must demand is arrests.” She added: “We saw people allowed to leave who were bloodied. We've got to know who these people are and what their associations are.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 1/7/21]

    • Fox host Jesse Watters spoke out against the insurrection: “I condemn it fully.” He continued: “And I want to speak to the people that think it wasn't that big of a deal. Yes, you’re allowed, as a member of the public, to go into the people's house, but you have to go through the front door and you have to pass through a metal detector. You can't smash windows, spray police with chemical agents, assault police officers, loot, and vandalize. An unarmed woman was shot dead, and what did it accomplish? It accomplished absolutely nothing. So I want to make that very clear.” [Fox News, The Five, 1/7/21]

    • Fox host Greg Gutfeld expressed agreement with Watters, adding: “I condemn this equally because we aren't them.” He added: “We are better than them. … Republicans are always outraged by bad behavior because they consistently, consistently embrace law and order and condemn the destruction of private and public property. … You will not see Republicans bailing out those who were arrested. See, that is a vital contrast. And Americans know this. Americans do not need lectures from hypocrites in hair and makeup who pick and choose their favorite protesters, right? So, I’m glad that the Democrats are finally outraged by this disgusting behavior. Join the club. I’ve been there for a year. I do not play favorites with mobs.” [Fox News, The Five, 1/7/21

    • MacCallum said, “The people who broke in and disrupted and vandalized the United States Capitol are being sought by the FBI, as they should be this evening — and both sides, I think, feel strongly about that.” [Fox News, The Story with Martha MacCallum, 1/7/21]

    • Hannity called for a “full, transparent investigation into what went wrong” on January 6 and said rioters who “[broke] the law,” “breached the building,” and “committed vandalism” should be “arrested and prosecuted.” [Fox News, Hannity, 1/7/21]

    • Hannity stated, “Unlike fake news CNN, this program — we’re going to condemn all violence.” He added: “We condemn the far left riots over the summer, we condemn what happened yesterday at the Capitol.” [Fox News, Hannity, 1/7/21]

    • Ingraham declared, “Many who stormed the Capitol will likely face jail time. Good. Anyone who broke the law should.” [Fox News, The Ingraham Angle, 1/7/21]

    • Fox contributor Sean Duffy commented that “to see the thugs storm our Capitol with such disrespect made me so angry.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 1/8/21]

    • Fox contributor Marc Thiessen stated, “We can't skirt the fact that Donald Trump is responsible for what happened on Wednesday.” He continued: “He invited this crowd to Washington, he incited them with lies, he raised their expectations that somehow something was going to happen to overturn the election, setting them up for disappointment, he blamed members of Congress for not being strong enough, he said — he told the crowd on Wednesday, ‘We’ve got to get rid of the weak members. I want you to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue and take back our country.’ And that's what happened. They tried to do.” Thiessen then praised conservatives for saying, “‘This is unacceptable, we condemn this, and we lay blame for it with the president for inciting it.’” [Fox News, America’s Newsroom, 1/8/21]

    • Fox contributor Mollie Hemingway said, “I haven't seen any legitimate person, or anyone, say that what happened on Wednesday was in any way OK. You have unanimity of thought on this.” [Fox News, Outnumbered, 1/8/21]

    • Fox contributor Mike Huckabee said of January 6 insurrectionists, “They were criminals.” He added: “When you go and break the glass at the Capitol and overrun police officers and you begin to destroy public property, it is exactly the things that we said a year ago, when it was being done in many American cities, that it was mob behavior, it was anarchy. We can't call it anything else. It was the same thing, and it's wrong. I don't care who does it. I don't care what their political ideology is. We’ve got to condemn it.” [Fox News, Outnumbered Overtime with Harris Faulkner, 1/8/21]

    • Fox News contributor Deroy Murdock described insurrectionists as “extremists” and added, “I've never seen such a staggering act of political self-sabotage in my life.” [Fox News, The Story with Martha MacCallum, 1/8/21]

    • Fox host Jeanine Pirro: “The actions at the United States Capitol three days ago were deplorable, reprehensible, outright criminal.” Pirro declared that “anyone watching this must condemn it.” [Fox News, Justice with Judge Jeanine, 1/9/21]

    • Fox contributor Pastor Robert Jeffress remarked, “We’ve got to acknowledge that what happened Wednesday at the Capitol was not only a crime, it was a sin against God.” He added: “The people who stormed that Capitol, the people who killed that police officer, were not a part of the kingdom of God, as some people claimed, they were a part of the kingdom of Satan.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends Weekend, 1/10/21]

    • Fox anchor Maria Bartiromo asked Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), “So who was this and what was behind this heinous, disgusting move to put an assault on our democracy by breaking into the Capitol on Wednesday? Where is the accountability there?” Jordan replied with a declaration “to hold people who did these terrible things accountable,” continuing, “You know, people are responsible for their actions and these terrible actions that were taken, they need to be held accountable and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.” [Fox News, Sunday Morning Futures with Maria Bartiromo, 1/10/21]

  • Trump declared that he would pardon January 6 insurrectionists

    • On March 11, 2024, then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump declared in a Truth Social post that one of his first acts if reelected as president would be to “Free the January 6 Hostages being wrongfully imprisoned!” Trump won the Republican presidential nomination the next day. [Truth Social, 3/11/24; PBS, 3/12/24]

    • This isn’t the first time Trump has pledged support for January 6 insurrectionists. At a January 2022 rally, Trump suggested, “If it requires pardons, we will give them pardons,” and complained that rioters were being treated “so unfairly.” In September 2022, Trump stated he would issue full pardons and an apology to rioters and even divulged that he was “financially supporting” some defendants, adding, “It’s a disgrace what they’ve done to them. What they’ve done to these people is disgraceful.” During a CNN town hall, Trump said that he was “inclined to pardon many” insurrectionists. [Media Matters, 1/31/22; The Washington Post, 9/1/22; NBC News, 5/10/23]

  • Fox News now defends January 6 insurrectionists and downplays their actions

    • Fox contributor Tyrus Murdoch dismissed any existing threat to democracy, claiming, “There’s, like, less than six left out on the street from January 6.” Tyrus added, “Even if someone says, ‘Hey, my birthday's on January 6,’ there's a good chance your ass is going to jail.” [Fox News, Gutfeld!, 1/4/24]

    • Greg Gutfeld downplayed January 6: “It's probably the only coup in history that didn't have any arms.” Gutfeld’s claim that insurrectionists were unarmed is not true. [Fox News, The Five, 1/5/24]

    • Fox contributor Sean Duffy described the insurrectionists as “peacefully walking, giving themselves a tour of the Capitol.” He and questioned, “Maybe they shouldn't have been there, but should they be prosecuted? Should they be felons? Should they go to prison for, you know, a year or two years?” Fox host Will Cain and failed New York gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin complained that the FBI was spending its limited resources on tracking down insurrectionists. [Fox News, The Ingraham Angle, 1/5/24]

    • In a segment on the Justice Department supposedly targeting January 6 insurrectionists, frequent guest Victor Davis Hanson said, “It was a buffoonish riot, but there was not an armed insurrection. Nobody had a weapon inside the Capitol.” This is not true; as of 2021, 23 people had been charged with having deadly or dangerous weapons during the attack. [Fox News, The Ingraham Angle, 1/8/24; FactCheck, 3/10/21]

    • Mark Levin attacked Judge Florence Y. Pan for denying the appeal of Russel Alford, a January 6 insurrectionist. After reading from tweets by Julie Kelly, a conspiracy theorist who has defended January 6 and sought to rewrite its history, Levin remarked, “He was inside there 11 minutes, roaming around, did absolutely nothing.” [Fox News, Life, Liberty & Levin, 1/14/24]

    • Gutfeld accused Democrats of “violating constitutional norms,” such as “weaponizing the IRS” and “using the FBI to set up citizens — from parents at school board meetings to anybody within five miles of the Capitol on January 6.” [Fox News, Gutfeld!, 1/17/24]

    • Ingraham complained that migrants involved in a brawl with New York police officers in Times Square got “zero consequences,” but January 6 defendants face consequences “because they were political enemies.” [Fox News, The Ingraham Angle, 2/1/24]

    • Gutfeld said of a proposed bill that would charge pro-Palestine protesters blocking traffic as domestic terrorists, “How soon would this be used against parents, Trump supporters, pro-lifers? I mean, they're kind of already doing it to parents at school board meetings and January 6 protesters.” Later in the segment, after co-host Jessica Tarlov pushed back against his claim that the government would weaponize the law against conservatives, Gutfeld referred to insurrectionists as “political prisoners.” [Fox News, The Five, 2/14/24]

    • Gutfeld said that “all the major critics of the left have been targeted by lawfare” including January 6 protesters. He said: “I think the bigger picture here, when you step back, is how all the major critics of the left have been targeted by lawfare. So, whether it's January 6 protesters, Trump, Lindell, Musk, Giuliani, Bannon, Fox, there are lesser known names who are being targeted. It is time, probably, to return fire. You know, you don’t bring a slingshot to a gunfight.” [Fox News, The Five, 2/23/24]

    • Ingraham commented on a fence encircling the perimeter of the Capitol building, saying, “This fence is giving the January 6 vibes. Are they going to put us all in solitary confinement too?” [Fox News, The Ingraham Angle, 3/7/24]

    • Fox host Pete Hegseth complained that the federal government is “distracted” at the border because the focus has been on “mostly peaceful protesters on January 6.” [Fox News, One Nation with Brian Kilmeade, 3/16/24]

    • Gutfeld minimized January 6 insurrectionists’ actions by claiming that “the January 6 protesters were squatting in the Capitol for a few hours, and look how the government reacted — they actually shot one to death.” [Fox News, The Five, 3/20/24]

    • Ingraham claimed that Americans on January 6 “were targeted, people who weren't even in the Capitol were targeted, and, you know, various charges brought, many of them unfair, long periods of solitary confinement.” [Fox News, The Ingraham Angle, 3/21/24]

  • Correction (5/23/24): The headline originally included a transcription error -- it said “downright” rather than “outright.”